Never forgetting: In Hiroshima, Murphys visit peace park that still has impact

Governor, first lady visit with survivor, tour museum with member of delegation on East Asia Economic Mission

HIROSHIMA, Japan — Here are just a few of the startling numbers connected to the impact of the dropping of the first atomic bomb, on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.

  • 70,000: The estimated number of immediate casualties;
  • 140,000: The estimated number of casualties within a year of the dropping of the bomb;
  • 345,000: The estimated population of the city on that day;
  • 5,000-7,000: The estimated temperature (in Fahrenheit) at the bomb site upon detonation;
  • 70: Percentage of buildings in Hiroshima completely leveled by blast.
  • 8: The age at the time of the blast of the survivor who greeted Gov. Phil Murphy and first lady Tammy Murphy on Sunday afternoon during a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

In a moving moment that came minutes after a tour of the museum that is part of the park, the Murphys met with the 86-year-old Keiko Ogura, who has been telling her story to visitors for more than four decades.

Gov. Phil Murphy’s symbolic wreath.

“I’m so happy to have leaders from all over the world come here,” she told the Murphys.

The reason: It’s an opportunity to explain how everyone has the same history, Ogura said, and for all peoples to be united against the use of nuclear weapons.

The three made a short stroll down to a point where the governor laid a symbolic wreath in front of one of the numerous statutes and monuments — just a short walk from the most famous, the Genbaku Dome, the only structure that was left standing in the area on that day.

More than 75 years after that fateful day — one of the most difficult in human history — the memory lives on.

“Never forget” is not just a slogan in a bustling industrial city that now has more than 2 million residents, it’s woven into the fabric of life here.


Mari Katsui has been a part of bus tours to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park for more than three decades. She was leading one of the buses of delegates from New Jersey on Day 2 of the 2023 East Asia Economic Mission.

And, while Katsui politely passes on the chance to offer her personal opinion — “History always has different sides,” she said — she said she feels obligated to pass along the many stories of others she has collected over the years.

It hasn’t been easy.

The historic Genbaku Dome.

While there are few survivors of the day still alive, many of their children and grandchildren are. And many don’t like to talk about it.

Katsui told a story of a female friend of hers who only found out after her wedding that her mother had been exposed to the blast.

The reason: Because of the harmful impact of the bomb, there was a generation that tried to hide their exposure to it in fear that the fact could impact the ability of their children to find a spouse.

Ogura herself did not speak of the moment until the death of her husband in 1979.

Still, the memories remain. It’s not just the park and the dome, but the trolleys.

Only three trams survived that fateful day. And, just three days later, they were back in service. They continue to be in use today — with one serving as a museum for young students to ride in during lessons.

Not everyone is happy about the history.

Katsui said there was a movement years ago to take down the dome. She said some people feel it’s heart-wrenching for some to see it because of the memories it brings back.

In 1996, the Genbaku Dome was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


History is more than just remembering the past. It’s learning from it. That’s the only way the phrase, “Never forget,” actually becomes actionable.

The world still is reconciling what happened at Hiroshima. There has long been a healthy debate of the bombing.

Some say dropping the bomb at Hiroshima (and then a second, three days later, at Nagasaki) led to the surrender of Japan and the end of World War II.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

Others say the bombings were a war crime and unnecessary for the war’s end — noting the moral and ethical implications of the intentional nuclear attack on civilians.

This year’s popular movie, “Oppenheimer,” did little to solve the debate.

This much is clear. The threat of the use of a nuclear weapon — one that would be exponentially more powerful than the bomb dropped at Hiroshima — still is with us.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has suggested the possibility at times during his country’s war with Ukraine. Former President Donald Trump brought up the possibility of using a nuclear weapon against North Korea in 2017.

Earlier this summer, Ogura spoke to the G7 leaders about the impact the bomb still has on Hiroshima.

Ogura said she told the leaders that she hoped that, with deep feelings from seeing the bomb site for themselves, they would take a further step forward, according to a local report.

Katsui said the greatest history lesson is truly learning from it.

“The important thing is that we shouldn’t forget what happens,” she said. “Not for blaming other people, but so we, as human beings, do not repeat these mistakes.”